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BLESSING’S BEAD by Debby Dahl Edwardson

BLESSING’S BEAD

By Debby Dahl Edwardson

Age Range: 9 - 13

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-374-30805-6
Publisher: Melanie Kroupa/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

In 1917, two Iñupiaq sisters are separated when one marries a Siberian and crosses the Soviet “Ice Curtain.” In 1989, Blessing—great-granddaughter of the other sister—heads to Barrow, Alaska, to stay with her aaka (grandmother) while her mother is in treatment for alcoholism. There Blessing finds a blue bead in the bottom of her aaka’s sewing tin. As she grows to understand and love her new community, she learns about the story the bead holds and how it connects the whole family—even those in Siberia, who visit when the Ice Curtain finally falls. This multilayered family story is marred somewhat by awkward pacing and sometimes-unconvincing voices—the 1917 voice is overcome with nature similes; Blessing’s is occasionally strongly colloquial (“My mom always braid my hair before she go Bingo”), only to slip suddenly into “proper” English. Still, Edwardson treads an elegant line in her perspective: Blessing is both an insider—Iñupiaq—and an outsider still learning exactly what that means. It’s a perspective that allows any reader in, and they’ll learn much about the power of stories and names and how to use them both. (Fiction. 9-13)